Artificial Christmas trees are very popular with many party hosts, but many still get the thrill of creating their own real tree every year.
“Bringing a family together is all about the warm and gentle traditions that sometimes go back generations,” said Robert Richardson of the Illinois Christmas Tree Society. “There are about 100 pick and harvest farms in Iowa.”
An additional challenge for a real Christmas tree, he said, is the care that takes place throughout the season.
Choosing the right tree is important for families and Christmas tree producers, too, said Adam Janke, a forester with the Iowa State University Extension.
“Species that grow well in Iowa are Scots (Scottish) pine, white pine, red pine, Norway fir, Colorado blue fir, white fir, balsam fir, Fraser fir, Douglas fir, and Conchlore fir,” he said. “Douglas fir, for example, is favored by consumers in Nebraska and Kansas, while Scotch pine is most popular in Iowa.”
After selecting and cutting the tree, clean out the loose needles that are between the branches. Then take care of it as you would cut flowers.
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“Simply make a new, straight cut across the trunk about an inch away from the original cut. This opens the trunk of the tree to absorb water,” Janke said.
After preparing the tree, look for items that could cause danger to your tree and home.
“Keep your tree away from heat and quality sources such as stoves, radiators, and televisions,” Richardson said. “Test the lighting wires and connections before hanging them on the tree to make sure they work well. Never use wires with cracked insulation or sockets that are broken or empty.”
If you are not setting up the tree immediately after you bring it home, keep it in a cool place like the garage for a few days until it is time to set it up.
After setting it up, he said, he enjoyed the tree and watered it every day. It may take several liters to more than a gallon of water each day in the early stages.
At the end of the season, the trees will also need proper shedding. Many recycling centers will recycle for you, Janke said, but check ahead about their policies. Make sure all lights and decorations are turned off as well.
Other options are available for those with ponds, Janke said, suggesting tying two concrete blocks to the tree and placing them in a deep spot of your pond for fish habitat. Some may also be tempted to burn their tree, but watch out when doing so as the needles can burn quickly and this should be done away from any other structures.
To create a festive atmosphere while gathering around the tree, here are recipes for hot drinks and snacks to share with the Iowa State University Extension.